Tag Archives: Robert McWhir

Queereteria TV
★★

Above the Stag

Queereteria TV

Queereteria TV

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 12th April 2019

★★

 

“a musical comedy that needs to be stripped back and developed to make it into something that delivers the potential of its narrative”

 

‘Queereteria TV’ takes us post-apocalypse, as a group of gay men take over a TV station, that was the previous site of gay cruising club, Club Queereteria. It’s a queer comedy complete with music, dance and drag, and is the third in a trilogy of shows that follow Torsten’s journey (played by Andy Bell, Erasure), each accompanied by a concept album.

As we enter Above the Stag’s new and improved auditorium, it is clear that this is a beautiful space. David Shields’ set design compliments it well. Curved screens are used effectively throughout the play, particularly in the second half of the show, where we are placed in a kitchen, in the House of Commons and in an episode of Dragon’s Den. These sketches are also some of the strongest moments of the show, which unfortunately fails to deliver or develop much of a narrative that an audience can emotionally engage in.

The script, written by Barney Ashton-Bullock, is overwritten and overindulgent, and because of this it is frequently inaccessible. It is full of big ideas and aims to explore some vital topics including queer sexuality, fetish, gender conformity, the power of the media, societal pressure and conformity, however they fail to come together. Whilst it might work in a shorter format, a full length play where every other sentence is an innuendo quickly becomes repetitive, as there is no nuance to the humour. Unfortunately as a result, the whole play is one note. The fun and potential within the script could be condensed into an hour and be considerably more entertaining and investigative than the current product.

Ashton-Bullock also appears in the play as Torsten’s lover, Daniel. Unfortunately his acting is no better than his writing, and there is no chemistry between him and Bell. Torsten is consistently wooden and ultimately this feels like a glorified showcase for Bell’s singing. Tom Mann can clearly act but his dancing is sadly out of time, whilst William Spencer, who is also the choreographer, is a competent and stylish dancer, who struggles with his acting. There are certainly issues that director, Robert McWhir, should’ve ironed out to streamline these performances.

On a stronger note, Matthew Baldwin plays Lady Domina Bizarre and brings a fantastic energy to the stage. Baldwin is funny and vivid, and the best performance of the show. Peter Straker also delivers some lovely moments, finding a level of honesty and truth in a play that otherwise loses this in melodrama and overwriting.

This is a musical comedy that needs to be stripped back and developed to make it into something that delivers the potential of its narrative, and entertains with nuance.

Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by PBG Studios

 

Above The Stag Theatre

Queereteria TV

Above the Stag until 28th April

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Goodbye Norma Jeane
★★

Above the Stag

Goodbye Norma Jeane

Goodbye Norma Jeane

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 18th March 2019

★★

 

“The story is set in the golden age of Hollywood … Unfortunately, the set design tells another story”

 

We already know so much about Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson) – the multiple books, films, documentaries, interviews with people who knew her, interviews with people who saw her from afar once – that it’s hard to imagine how a new play could bring to light anything unknown. So it’s quite a relief to discover that ‘Goodbye Norma Jeane’ isn’t really about her at all.

Liam Burke’s script tells the tale of unsung hero Jack Cole (Tim English), Hollywood choreographer and, apparently, the real talent behind the stars. The story is set in the golden age of Hollywood – satin gowns dripping with diamonds and fur, debauched pool parties, decadence and glamour for days. Unfortunately, the set design (Stewart J Charlesworth) tells another story – a lot of grey furniture, and a lot of empty bottles. Presumably the latter are supposed to insinuate that a good time has been had, but the effect is quite the opposite. 

For a man who claims to have given dozens of stars their sexiest and most iconic moves, English portrays a very understated character. There is a lot of bitterness in the script – “I made Gwen like I made the rest of them”- but English misses it completely, favouring head-shaking disappointment and unconvincing humility, perhaps in an attempt to make Cole more likeable. We’re also left straining to hear his very patchy American accent at times as he struggles to make himself heard.

Rachel Stanley, playing all of Cole’s ‘muses’, is an entirely different animal. She’s a triple threat – singing, dancing and acting – and whilst a lot of her performance is quite hammy – introducing every new character with a shimmy in a spot-lit doorway for example – her delivery is entertaining and, at times, quite funny.

Admittedly, I imagine it would be quite a challenge to anyone to bring the glamour and tragedy of Monroe-esque Hollywood to a small fringe theatre, but it’s hard to see where Robert McWhir’s direction even attempted it. Everyone loves a story of a forgotten hero, and Jack Cole’s contributions to cinema and dance certainly make him a contender for such a tale, but unfortunately ‘Goodbye Norma Jeane’ does little to reinstate his forgotten Hollywood legacy.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by PBG Studios

 


Goodbye Norma Jeane

Above the Stag until 7th April

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com